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Raiders-Lions: 3 key matchups, Maxx Crosby faces up-and-comer Penei Sewell

Lions have good young roster that could give Raiders trouble

Las Vegas Raiders v Chicago Bears
Maxx Crosby
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Both the Las Vegas Raiders and Detroit Lions are coming off of blowout losses heading into their Week 8 Monday Night Football contest and both teams have a lot on the line.

The Raiders need a win to salvage their season as there’s a big difference between heading into the back half of the campaign at 3-5 versus 4-4, while the Lions need to bounce back to keep pace with the Eagles at the top of the NFC standings. That places an even bigger emphasis on the three matchups below, the majority of which tilt in Detroit’s favor, a big reason why they’re over a touchdown favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook.

1) Raiders CBs vs. Amon-Ra St. Brown

The Lions’ passing attack ranks fourth in the NFL with about 259 yards per game and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is a big reason why. He ranks fourth at his position with 52 catches, eighth in yards at 557 and has three scores which is just outside of the top 10.

But what makes those numbers even more impressive is the majority of the guys who are ahead of him have played in one more game than he has. That’s because St. Brown has been efficient this year, recording 2.44 yards per route run which is 13th among wideouts, according to Pro Football Focus.

In the past, he’s been tabbed as more of a slot receiver, but Detroit has been moving him around a lot this season. He’s much closer to an even 50/50 split between snaps on the inside and outside this year—51.9 percent in the slot versus 47.3 percent out wide. Also, he plays on both sides of the center with 183 reps on the left side of the formation and 194 on the right.

Detroit Lions v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

So, that’s going to put pressure on all of the Raiders’ cornerbacks.

With Nate Hobbs missing the team’s last three games, Las Vegas has deployed Amik Robertson and Tyler Hall at nickel and both have been strong when covering the slot.

Robertson has surrendered just 0.45 yards per coverage snap and averages one reception allowed every 11 coverage snaps on the inside over the last three weeks, while Hall’s figures sit at 0.67 and one catch per 14 opportunities, according to PFF. Granted, the latter didn’t get any playing time last week.

Things get a little more dicey for the Silver and Black on the outside, though.

Marcus Peters doesn't have the speed and movement skills he used to have to cover St. Brown, and while the cornerback has made a few nice plays on the ball with four PBUs this year, he’s still giving up a 69.4 completion percentage when targeted this season. Also, who is starting on the other side of Peters is a bit of a question mark.

Robertson has taken some snaps in the boundary too but has been much less effective than he is in the slot, yielding a 68.4 completion percentage, 1.56 yards per coverage snap and a reception once every 8.7 opportunities. Last week, David Long Jr. got the start opposite Peters and allowed four catches on four targets for 38 yards.

So, the Raiders will need a lot of guys to step up to keep St. Brown in check, and, on paper at least, this matchup heavily tilts in the Lions’ favor.

2) Thayer Munford/Jermaine Eluemunor vs. Aidan Hutchinson

Aidan Hutchinson is one of Maxx Crosby’s biggest competitors when it comes to leading the league in pressures this season. Heading into the weekend, Crosby ranks first with 43 but Hutchinson is only one behind, per PFF.

The second-year pro is also one of the league’s most-consisted pass rushers with a 19.2 percent win rate that ranks 11th among edge defenders. He also owns the seventh-best PFF grade as a rusher (89.4) and has quickly become Detroit’s top defensive player.

Hutchinson has evolved into a player that opposing offenses must keep in check to have success throwing the ball, and he primarily lines up on the left side of the defense which will put a lot of stress on Las Vegas’ right tackles.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Ohio State at Michigan
Thayer Munford (75), Aidan Hutchinson (97) 2021
Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the last three weeks, the Raiders have gone back to rotating Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford with the former recording 92 snaps and 128 for the latter. Eluemunor has been more of the pass protector as 60 of those 92 reps have been in pass protection, and he’s surrendered just one pressure to earn a 76.7 PFF grade in that department. Meanwhile, Munford has given up two pressures on 67 opportunities for a 65.9 mark.

So, unless Josh McDaniels finally decides to stick with one guy on Monday night, those two are going to need to bring their ‘A-game’.

The good news is teams can run at Hutchinson. He’s a great pass-rusher but owns a 55.6 PFF grade against the run and has a missed tackle rate of 28.6 percent this season. That’s where Munford could have the upper hand with his 74.0 mark as a run-blocker.

Plus, it might help that he has experience going against the Michigan product as there will be no love lost in this battle between a couple of college rivals.

3) Maxx Crosby vs. Penei Sewell

To me, this is the headliner of all the one-on-one battles this week.

As mentioned above, Crosby has been on a tear this season and leads the league in pressures. He’s also tied for sixth with 6.5 sacks, ranks ninth among edges in pass-rush win rate (20.0 percent) and owns the fifth-best PFF grade as a rusher with a mark of 90.8.

The two-time Pro Bowler is a tough matchup for anyone, but Penei Sewell is a worthy adversary.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons
Penei Sewell
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The third-year pro is an up-and-comer who is starting to blossom into one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles. In seven games, he’s surrendered zero pressures five times and has only given up three on the entire year. The latter is the fewest of any tackle with at least 100 snaps in pass protection and he’s done that while playing both left and right tackle, filling in for Taylor Decker on the blind side in Weeks 2 and 3.

But Crosby is more than just a pass-rusher, he’s an elite run defender too. No edge has more tackles (21) against the run, he’s tied for second in run stops and ranks third with an 85.2 PFF run defense grade. Meanwhile, Sewell isn’t quite as impressive in the ground game but is just outside of the top 10 among offensive tackles with a 77.0 mark in that department.

So, this shapes up for one hell of a heavyweight battle between two top-tier players who are both still in their 20s.